Britain’s lack of apprenticeships is holding country back; report

Posted on 29 Aug 2014 by The Manufacturer

Civitas, say Britain lags behind other countries in skills and economic growth because of our lack of apprenticeships.

Civitias, the institute for the study of civil society, a cross party think tank, has released a report which heavily criticises the way the British government and education sector design apprenticeship schemes.

The report lists multiple ways Britain fails to invest in its youth, saying apprenticeships could help reduce the youth unemployment rate. And British firms employ apprenticeships at an equivalent to less than 1% of their workforce, compared with 5% in Germany. German apprenticeships are also three times as long in duration.

The report says the result for Germany is a better skilled workforce, with higher productivity and lower youth unemployment – which has been running at less than half the UK’s rate during the recession.

The analysis comes in a study by analyst Christopher Simpson, who has worked with German companies since the 1960s.

Simpson says: “This [style apprenticeship] is in stark contrast to the UK and provides a ‘level playing field’ with all companies exercising their responsibility, rather than a situation where cynical companies just poach skilled personnel from others having made no contribution themselves.”

He joins the calls of other experts. In July The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) ninth annual Engineering and Technology: Skills & Demand in Industry report, found that more than half of employers were having difficulties recruiting the staff they need.

Simpson’s report goes on to list several ways in which the UK could follow Germany’s success – lowering wages to three quarters of the average for apprenticeships.

The report comes as many in manufacturing argue over the recurring problem of whether university graduates and academia are beneficial or whether apprenticeships are the way forward.

Mark Beswick, managing director of R&B Switchgear Group, has said in the past: “For us in the electrical engineering sector, there is often a lack of practical knowledge from graduates and a lack of theoretical knowledge from apprentices, which is a difficult balance to achieve.”

Simpson believes that “effectively the growth of financial services has resulted in the decimation of British industry.”

Whether or not apprenticeships could be a way of halting this, remains to be seen.

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